Augusta native Charles Howell remains steady as he returns to Masters
Augusta native Charles Howell’s consistency has helped him pocket more than $40 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour, which is why some have nicknamed him the Human ATM Machine.
Now in his 21st consecutive season playing a full PGA Tour schedule, Howell turned 41 in June.
“I can’t believe it,” Howell said, referring to both his age and longevity on the tour.
Howell is one of those rare veteran players who hasn’t lost his playing card since coming to the "Big Tour" full time in 2001, when he was the tour's rookie of the year.
Howell, who will tee it up in his second consecutive Masters and 10th of his career, made 575 career starts on the PGA Tour through the Las Vegas event in early October. In a stat that reflects his consistency, he has made 444 cuts out of those 575 starts. He has averaged about 28 starts per season, and is one of only nine players to qualify for all 14 seasons of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“I never did or didn’t picture that. I knew I wanted to play golf and be a golfer. It’s a big number, I know, it’s just amazing how fast it has gone,” he said.
Howell, who has avoided serious injury since turning pro, hopes to play for another decade on the PGA Tour and then also make his mark on the PGA Tour Champions for golfers 50 or older.
“I’d love to. I’m a golfer. That’s what I love to do,” he said.
Howell has won three times, with 16 runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve had a good career,” Howell said. “It’s a career I’m proud of with the consistency and longevity of it. I wish I would have won more golf tournaments, but I’m still playing so I can do something about that. I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
In an effort to win more, Howell worked with instructor Josh Gregory before the COVID-19 pandemic break in March to help with his short game. Howell met Gregory when he coached the Augusta University golf team a decade ago. They have worked together since just after the 2019 Tour Championship in late August.
“He said, ‘I’ve been fortunate to have a long career and make a lot of money and do a lot of things, but I want to learn how to win,’” Gregory said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve been around so I wouldn’t say he neglected his short game, he just needed to dedicate a little more time to his short game and honestly, how to practice it in a better way.”
Through the Las Vegas tournament that ended Oct. 11, Howell had won just over $40 million on the PGA Tour and ranked 20th on the all-time money list.
“That’s pretty remarkable,” Gregory said. “When he first approached me, he said, ‘I’ve made a lot of money but I feel like I’ve got six, eight, 10 years of good play in front of me and I want to win golf tournaments.”
Howell’s victories have been spread out – in both time and geography. He won the 2002 Michelob Championship in Virginia, the 2007 Nissan Open in California and the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga.
The latest win came in November 2018 and earned Howell an invitation to the 2019 Masters. After that, he went on to be one of the top 30 players to qualify for the 2019 Tour Championship (28th in the FedEx Cup standings), which got him into the 2020 Masters.
The RSM Classic victory came nearly 12 years after his previous win and ended a 333-tournament winless drought. It showed that Howell, then age 38, could still win.
“It was a nice wakeup call to see how difficult it is to be successful and win out here,” Howell said. “The game has changed dramatically. The game’s a lot harder in terms of the depth of talent. I still spend all the time in the gym to try to ward off Father Time as much as I can.”
Howell’s appearance in the 2019 Masters, where he tied for 32nd, was his first start at Augusta National in seven years. That meant his two children, Ansley Grace (who was eight at this time last year) and Chase (age 7 then) could appreciate the Masters for the first time.
“They had a blast,” Howell said. “They loved Wednesday, the Par-3 day, the dressing up, the running around and all that. Just being around Augusta, the membership is wonderful. So many of them have been good to me and helped me throughout the years.”
Howell opened with 1-over-par 73 in the first round last year at the Masters, but came back with 5-under-par 67. He followed that with 76-69 to finish at 3-under 285. It was his best-ever showing in the Masters, in relation to par, by three shots.
Last year’s second-round 67, which featured an eagle, four birdies and a bogey, was memorable because it was the first time in 27 career rounds at Augusta National that Howell had broken 70.
“I knew that,” said Howell, whose previous best round had been 70 (three times). “I’ve got a very big appreciation for that golf course and the difficulty of it. I eagled 13 (during his 67), which was a big part of that day. There are no easy rounds at Augusta, there just isn’t.”